Hana Bell

Document Type

Book Review


Despite being against the actual act of adultery, Deborah Rhode, the Ernest W McFarland Professor of Law and Director of the Center on the Legal Profession at Stanford University, makes a shockingly compelling argument for abolishing all laws that criminalize adultery in America. Rhode has written the first book of its kind—“the first comprehensive account of adultery and its legal consequences in the United States.” Weaving through various scenarios in which pro-adultery law arguments might be made, Rhode concludes that “laws governing adultery have grown more anachronistic.” Upon navigating the first few pages of Rhode’s book, one may prematurely dismiss her thesis; perhaps attributing the argument against punishing adulterers to an author with little respect for longstanding customs and traditions. However, Rhode does in fact take into account various traditionalist views, embraces them, and by the end of the book, convinces readers that notwithstanding the toxic essence of adultery, existing laws that criminalize adultery can be substantially harmful too.

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